As the East Tennessee college supported by the Tennessee Baptist Convention, Carson-Newman always has felt a little like "ours" to many members of area Southern Baptist churches. Its athletic success through the years often has included area players, and many of its graduates have ended up on the coaching staffs at area schools.
Local supporters have run a golf tournament benefiting the athletic department of the Jefferson City college for 30 years, and now some Carson-Newman alumni have banded to do more. They started a "North Georgia" golf tournament for Eagles athletics that attracted 44 players in May in Calhoun, and Saturday night they're holding an alumni banquet at 6 p.m. at Concord Baptist Church.
The inaugural dinner will include a silent auction and a roast of longtime Carson-Newman football offensive coach Mike Turner.
"The economy has hit Carson-Newman hard, like it's hit a lot of businesses and schools hard," said Lamar Brown, a Catoosa County school principal who went from Ringgold High School to star at defensive end for the Eagles in the early 1980s. "We're trying to raise support in money and in getting people reconnected."
Two events that hit Brown and other area alumni hard in recent years helped lead to this initiative. One was the ending of CN's long-strong wrestling program as a cost-cutting measure. The other was Jeff Sims dying of a heart attack in March 2010. Sims was one of the series of Ringgold graduates who started for the football Eagles continuously from 1976 to '92.
"When Jeff passed away, some of us were together and talked about connecting more, with each other and with the school," Brown said. "We heard they needed some help up there, and we decided to see if we could do something about it.
"People who went to Carson-Newman had a good experience, for the most part, and it was important in their lives. We just want it to remain important to them."
With the help of Mark Isom, a 1985 CN All-American now on the alumni board, the former Eagles are creating a website (www.mossycreekathletes.com) and collecting email and social-network addresses and phone numbers for quick-contact possibilities about Eagles achievements and needs.
"The amount someone gives is not the big thing. It's just that they're giving," Isom said. "And we're going to make sure they know where that money goes."
Brown said the goal for the "Cleveland to Rome" alumni group is $25,000 in new donations, and $8,000 has been raised so far.
Anyone interested in attending Saturday's banquet or in helping in some other way should call him at 706-935-8236 by Thursday. He said about 85 had registered with a week to go.